H2H Registration challenge: Unauthorized application filed for CJ to recuse herself

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Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George

GECOM CEO arrogates Commission powers

Despite the last Commission meeting being held since June 11, the CEO of GECOM, Keith Lowenfield, has unilaterally arrogated its powers to have Senior Counsel Stanley Marcus move to the courts, asking acting Chief Justice Roxane George to recuse herself from hearing the challenge to House-to-House Registration.

This publication understands that Marcus, who last appeared on GECOM’s behalf unsuccessfully arguing his case before the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), contends in his application that Justice George may be biased against them by virtue of a recent press statement.

After she declined to grant an order restraining the house-to-house exercise and gave parties time to make further submissions, Justice George via the Supreme Court’s publicity unit was forced to make a statement correcting misconceptions with her decision.

Senior Counsel Stanley Marcus

One such misconception she corrected in her statement was claims made by Attorney General Basil Williams in sections of the press that applicant Christopher Ram withdrew his challenge.

According to a statement from former Attorney General Anil Nandlall, Marcus’ application contends that Justice George exhibited bias in the press statement.

“The Application filed by Mr Marcus, SC, is supported by an affidavit sworn to by Mr Keith Lowenfield. This compounds the anomaly. For Mr Lowenfield now purports to act for the Commission without the authority of the Commission,” Nandlall said in his statement.

“The Constitution is clear. Article 161 (1) is very clear: the GECOM shall consist of a Chairman and the Commissioners. Mr Lowenfield is not part of GECOM. Hence he is represented by different counsel in the case.”

Noting that new GECOM Chairperson, retired Justice Claudette Singh, has not convened a meeting of the Commission as yet, Nandlall questioned by what authority did Lowenfield take on the lawyer to represent GECOM.

“I have consulted with at least 3 Commissioners of GECOM and have been advised that GECOM has not met since 11th, June 2019, Mr James Patterson officially demitted office on 24th, June 2019, and the new Chairman is yet to commission a meeting with the Commissioners,” Nandlall said.

Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George

“In the circumstances, I feel compelled to ask; who retained and authorised Mr Stanley Marcus to file this Application? It certainly cannot be GECOM. These are fresh proceedings and one cannot argue that the same authority by which he appeared before the Caribbean Court of justice continues to apply. GECOM should publicly state its position on this matter, earliest.”

Last week Tuesday, George denied an application for an interim conservatory order to block the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) from continuing its house-to-house exercise that began on July 20.

Nandlall, who is appearing on behalf of Ram, had said at the time that the order was not granted since the Chief Justice required more evidence as to the unconstitutionality of the exercise and GECOM’s reluctance to comply with the CCJ rulings.

“The Chief Justice did not grant the conservatory order which we sought to restrain the registration process,” Nandlall explained. “But significantly, the Chief Justice emphasised that she understood that the CCJ ruled, that the elections must be held by September 18.”

“And she said that very clearly, that that is what the CCJ ruled in accordance with Articles 106 (6 and 7). However, she said that we have not satisfied her on the affidavit that there is enough evidence to show that GECOM is not acting to complete this process and hold elections within that time.”

former Attorney General Anil Nandlall

Besides Nandlall, Attorney-at-Law Neil Boston was given until July 29 to submit his affidavits. Boston was reported to have been representing GECOM Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield since the CEO was named as the respondent in Ram’s application.

Nandlall and team, who this publication understands have filed an affidavit with the additional evidence for the CJ as of last Tuesday afternoon, were given until July 31 to respond to these filings, with the Chief Justice ordering that all relevant submissions be laid over with the court by July 31.

The Guyana Bar Association, which will be represented by its President, Teni Housty, and prominent attorney, Sanjeev Datadin was also given leave to join the proceedings as a party and make written submissions. The case was meanwhile scheduled to be heard on August 2. According to Nandlall, however, this new application from GECOM will be heard today at 17:00h.